Paid Leave Proposal Not a Real Solution

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This week the Senate Finance Committee’s Subcommittee on Social Security, Pensions and Family Policy held a hearing on a proposal that they claim could give parents the ability to take paid family leave.

On the table, is an approach that would allow parents to defer their Social Security payments to cover parental leave. A bill including this framework is expected to be introduced later this week by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) later this week.

While on its surface, it seems like the proposal could be a step forward in our country’s efforts to catch up with the western world, I see it as an incomplete solution. It forces parents to choose time with their child over financial security in retirement. Beyond that, the amount covered for paid leave would equal 45% of wages, an amount insufficient for many people to access the leave.

Seems to me this is a proposal that would only benefit the wealthy, and dangle an inaccessible “solution” in the faces of the people who really need one.

On top of that, it only covers new parents, which only account for 25% of those seeking leave from their job. That means if you need to take care of your parents, a sick child or are sick yourself, you’re left out of the equation.

It also would delay retirement for anyone who took it, since it defers Social Security when people take it. Since we know women make up the majority of caregivers, it would disproportionately impact us – on top of the fact we’re paid less than our mail counterparts to begin with.

And while Senator Rubio and others crafted this legislation, another bill is has been on the table, that provides accessibility to people with a variety of needs to take leave, not just new parents. It’s funded through higher payroll taxes. It’s proposed by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). The FAMILY Act would create paid family leave and medical leave financed through higher payroll taxes. Her bill would cover two-thirds of wages for 12 weeks.

This legislation is written by a woman, who I presume has more expertise in terms of the needs of at least women and parents than her colleagues.

My fear is that with dueling proposals to catch our country up with the rest of the western world on the table, the real solution, and action will get lost in the shuffle, and something needs to be done.

When I had my first daughter, I worked at a news outlet that allowed us to take short term disability to cover our maternity leave. (The fact that I actually got paid because having a baby was a “disability” still goads me.) But I couldn’t take it until I spent my entire vacation time first. My daughter was born in April. That meant for the first year of her life, I didn’t even have the days to take Christmas off to be with her.

I’ll admit, if someone had offered me the ability to defer my Social Security benefits, I would have taken it. However, I was one of the lucky women whose husband had a high-paying job and we could have lived on half my salary for a few months, particularly if you consider the child care savings as well.

But I was an anomaly. Most families can’t afford it, and it seems to me that this is another proposal that would benefit high wage earning families, and ignore the families in need of the support.

 

If you want to get involved in the effort, you can join the NC Families Care Coalition, which Women AdvaNCe is a proud partner of.

 




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